I think we all remember our first cartoon crush. You may have been sitting in your footie pajamas watching Saturday morning cartoons, or perhaps in a pillow fort in a plastic tiara and pink skirt, singing along with sleeping beauty, but I know that every little girl at least once had her little fluttering heart stolen by some devastatingly handsome configuration of lines and colors at one point or another (I'm not sure where little boys stood on cartoon crushes, but I'm sure a fair handful of them fell to some shining animated beauty as well.) Animation studios have been doing this for ages; somehow making two-dimensional animated characters appeal to us -- particularly Disney, with its Aladdins, Peter Pans, and Prince Phillips -- but this power doesn't seem to stop at humans. It's already bizarre enough that they can make us fall for lines on a page in the first place, but animators seem to have the uncanny and somewhat disturbing ability to do this with animals as well. Observe:
Robin Hood. One of my first cartoon infatuations. Yes, I know he's a fox, and boy what a fox he is! By making him bipedal, dressing him in that jaunty, roguish ensemble, and pairing him with that blasted attractive voice, Disney has successfully turned a furry woodland creature into a dashing heartthrob that causes many girls to be naturally drawn to him even after they remember that he's a fox. There is definitely something not right about this. Aside from the fact that he's so attractive is the fact that the animators created him like that in the first place. You can tell that he's intentionally that way, so what are they trying to pull? Robin Hood is not the only one, of course. More recent examples have even been able to do away with some or all of the clothes and often even the bipedal movement and still make them distressingly attractive.
A few of the more notable examples include:
Thomas O'Malley from The Aristocats
Diego from Ice Age
The fox from The Chronicles of Narnia (Another instance of a fox, you'll notice)
And, my personal favorite, Puss in Boots from Shrek
First of all, I should NOT be able to come up with this many examples, and there are still a bunch that I haven't even mentioned. Also, you'll see that all of my examples are either foxes or cats; such is to be expected, because they're already beautiful animals in their own right, but their acquisition of personalities and voice actors turns that natural attraction upside-down and makes it far more unsettling, especially when you consider the voices they use (It was NOT fair of them to have Antonio Banderas be the voice of Puss in Boots.) This is far too common of an occurrence to be a coincidence; these animators have to be aware, at least in part, of the whole weird area they're getting into with this, and yet they still do it. And don't think the girls are the only targets either. I've got plenty of evidence of sexualized female animals as well, notably Lola Bunny, Odette from the Swan Princess (swan form, of course), and Minerva Mink from Animaniacs, all pictured below:
Another area of weirdness that animation (and even comics) can sometimes get into is doing this with young boys (Observe sample subjects Calvin, Pajama Sam, and T.J Detweiler:)
(Also, note that Hobbes is another one of those attractive cats)
By pairing them with the charm,wit, and subtle deviousness of much older guys, the same effect is created, which is more unsettling than I can possibly say.
This all begs the question of what the animators are up to with this whole thing. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and not question their... preferences... or their motives in conveying such preferences to a suggestible audience, and instead I'm going to guess that it is primarily a matter of exploiting the power they have over our minds to take us against our wills to the outer limits of weird. My theory is that animation studios enjoy messing with us, and so they make these animal characters subtly and disturbingly attractive to keep us questioning ourselves. I think that lately, Pixar has even managed to stretch the limits to which they can manipulate us by reaching beyond the animal kingdom to even more bizarre things.
Also, this one is not so much attractive, but I think he still deserves an honorable mention:
Purely for the reason that I have never wanted so much to hug a robot.
At any rate, I think that we can feel a little less weird about being attracted to the personified members of the animated animal kingdom, cause it's pretty safe to assume that the studios meant it that way to mess with us. Don't give them the satisfaction of knowing they made you question your psyche.
Unless of course none of you actually have this problem and I'm the only one who's attracted to cartoon cats and ten year old kids. That being the case, take this as a confession on my part and please get me some help.